Most people have no idea that the Americans with Disabilities Act applies to websites and other electronic applications. We generally tend to think of stores, restaurants, hotels, movie theatres, and other such places of “public accommodation”. With the rise of e-commerce and online web activity, websites are now considered such places, and this has created some problems for the owners of those sites.
Due to disabilities such as vision or hearing impairment, among others, many people have difficulty accessing and using websites that have not traditionally been designed with these folks in mind. Not only does this issue reduce the potential customer audience to your business, but it also now puts the website owner at risk of being non-compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and facing costly litigation.
In 2016, 262 of these cases were filed nationwide. By 2020, the number of cases increased nearly 13 times that amount to 3,500. Our agency was named in one of those such cases, and to say we were taken by surprise is an understatement. Especially since we had just launched a professionally developed website months earlier. Thankfully, after many hours and dollars, we were able to navigate this process to bring our website into compliance.
Our aim in writing this post is to get the word out, not only our business owner customers, but to business/website owners in general. We want to create awareness of the issue and help others avoid the nuisance and unnecessary costs involved in facing litigation related to this topic.
Unfortunately, there is a lack of solid and consistent guidance on what accessibility standards to follow. Courts have primarily relied on WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) 2.0 and WCAG 2.1. Despite the absence of clearly defined guidelines and legislation, businesses should be proactive in taking steps to be as compliant as possible to avoid an ADA website accessibility lawsuit. Consulting with your web designer or a digital marketing firm to perform an audit of your website and make updates would be a wise first step.